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COP26 Transport Day. How can automotive, heavy goods, marine & aviation shift toward Net Zero?

By November 11, 2021 No Comments

As the second week of COP26 unfolds & World Leaders & Industry sectors continue to make global climate change pledges; the spotlight this week has fallen on the transport sector.

With road transport accounting for 10% of all global emissions & emissions rising quicker than any other sector; the need to move to zero emissions vehicles is of paramount importance.

The transition to zero emissions vehicles is not a new concept, but rather than the technology being designed for an elite customer base with costs for EV’s in particular being out of the financial scope of many average working families; the plans for zero emissions vehicles going forward are to make them more accessible to a much wider audience.

With many global cities having already become car free, ULEZ’s appearing in most major cities in the UK & many other global cities already planning to remove cars entirely; the investment in zero emissions public transport is also being ramped up. Electric trams have been in operation for decades, but now we are seeing the investment into removing diesel buses & replacing with electric or hydrogen & the Taxi’s in London are slowly being replaced by electric.

Despite the COP26 pledges, not all were in agreement of the focus being very much on the transition to electric passenger cars for example. The Sustainable Transport Alliance pointed out that ever more cars, however they’re powered, will mean more congestion. (1)

They also require a lot of energy & materials in their construction & delivery to their users, making it questionable if an EV can be an entirely net zero product. (1)

The alliance wants to see countries shift away from electrifying cars to reducing their number, while making other forms of transport more attractive & less congested. (1)

With the UK Government having announced as part of it’s 10 point Green Industrial Revolution last November 2020 that from 2030 the UK will end the sale of new petrol & diesel cars & vans, 10 years earlier than planned; what plans do the UK Government have to extend this reach to heavy duty, marine & aviation?

It is no secret that although it has been relatively easy to adapt passenger vehicles such as cars, small vans & public transport, including some trains; the heavy goods, off-highway, construction, marine & aviation sectors are still finding it a challenge to get to zero emissions.

With these sectors relying on hundreds of tonnes of machinery being able to either drive on roads, construction sites, at sea or in the air with established engine & fuel methods proving they have the power & longevity to maintain their capacity; how can these sectors find ways to reach the targets set under the Paris Agreement, by International Governments & uphold the pledges made at COP26?

Heavy goods vehicles.

Despite the inherent challenges posed by the heavy goods sector, the UK Government confirmed on Wednesday 10th November 2021 that all new heavy goods vehicles in the UK will be zero-emission by 2040. The UK will become the first country in the world to commit to phasing out new, non-zero emission heavy goods vehicles weighing 26 tonnes & under by 2035, with all new HGVs sold in the UK to be zero emission by 2040. (2)

This is an ambitious target, with technology particularly in the heavy goods sector needing some considerable investment & development to still remain a viable competitor to the longevity of a traditional diesel engine.

Despite huge developments in electrification for heavy duty vehicles, the Automotive Council roadmaps for 2020 identified that different vehicle applications will require different powertrain solutions based on their energy & power demands. (3) Even though there have been considerable developments in battery electric off-highway vehicles in Europe & the roll out of highways with inbuilt pantograph power collectors to charge on board batteries; this is still very much in the development phase.


Eighteen states from across the world which represent over 40% of global aviation emissions, have agreed on an ambitious new aviation decarbonisation target.

At the COP26 Press conference 10.11.2021, Nigel Topping announced that 18 businesses & corporate customers in the aviation industry were aiming at a sustainable aviation fuel mix of 10% by 2030. Although some campaigners have said this does not go far enough, Topping pointed out that in 2020, the sustainable fuel mix was only 0.1%. With the new sustainable fuel in aviation, it would save 60M tonnes of C02 per year in the UK alone.


Nineteen governments have pledged to support the investment in & establishment of zero emission shipping corridors – zero-emission shipping routes between 2 ports. (2) This will include zero emission shipping technologies being deployed & adopting alternative fuel & charging infrastructures in ports.

COP26 Principal Partner Pledges

At the COP26 Press Conference 10.11.2021 it was announced that companies such as Amazon & Unilever will only buy zero carbon freight options from 2030. Sainsburys Supermarket having pledged to become 100% net zero by 2035 & being one of the Principal Partners of COP26, has been leading the way with its innovation.

As part of the retailers drive to net zero, they have become the first UK retailer to introduce fully electric refrigerated trailers to their delivery fleet. (4)

The trailer aspect of the lorry is 100 per cent electric, keeping customers’ food cold. This means the fridges don’t emit carbon emissions or particulate matter such as dust, dirt, soot or smoke into the air & have low noise emissions. The innovative new technology adds charge back into the battery by converting kinetic energy into electricity, keeping the onboard fridges cool and reducing energy consumption. (4)

Written & cited by Katy Mason for & on behalf of Dolphin N2